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Tigers on water

The Seaplane Club was formed following a letter in the Royal Aero Club gazette in 1960, with the idea of being based either on Southampton Water or the Solent. A Committee from the people who attended the first meeting was formed comprising Francis Chichester, later Sir Francis Chichester for becoming the first person to sail single handed around the world, Dr. Michael Moore, Air Commodore Paul and John Riseley Pritchard under the Chairman Mr. J. Lankester Parker and they were to report back with a plan.

They looked at the Shorts Aircraft landing area at Rochester, a location close to Medway Yacht Club, Calshot, Lee on Solent, the Welsh Harp and Frensham Ponds.

Norman Jones offered the Seaplane Club a gift of a Tiger Moth which was gratefully accepted, floats had been obtained for UKL500 and the Seaplane Club by this time had 51 members. In July ’61 a letter was sent to all the members advising them that Lee on Solent was the likely home of the Club, that De Havilland were assisting in getting the floats fitted and that funds had been found to set the Club up. Also that Lee on Solent Sailing Club were to allow members to use their clubhouse, which was far superior to any other flying clubhouse in the country!

Floats G-AIVW
IVW was initially painted in bright yellow with a blue trim. With the Club needing to find a safety boat, a trailer for the aircraft, the fitting of floats and negotiate permission to fly from Lee from all the different authorities it was some time before the first flight. The Tiger Club CFI Nepean "Bish" Bishop agreed to take on the day to day running of the Club and act as secretary in 1963 and an airfield licence was finally agreed in May 1963 for Calshot and flying commenced soon after this. The flying rate started at UKL5.00 per hour.

G-AIVWIVW was only used during the summer months, being laid up at Croydon during the winter. In the early years it was difficult getting enough people to allow for a lot of flying as each flight required someone in the safety boat and people to help prepare and launch the aircraft. Also getting instructors approved, was a far more complicated issue than flying from the land!

The aircraft suffered a minor accident with a float being damaged in 1964 and this prompted discussion about a second aircraft but there were no funds for this. Bish had to retire from his job as manager due to his wife being ill at the end of 1964. With the small membership and no obvious candidate to take over discussions started about the future of the Club.

In 1965 Norman Jones proposed taking over the running of the Seaplane Club and to take it into the Tiger Club and this was agreed in May of that year. The Seaplane Club had suffered lack of resources and members and as part of the Tiger Club it was hoped that it would be better supported.

As part of the Tiger Club the seaplane branch expanded its operation, over the years the Club had a Super Cub on floats and a Turbulent. The aircraft were operated from Lee on Solent and from Scotney Water amongst other places. Tom Freer and Keith Sissons amongst others, were instrumental in keeping the enthusiasm going for all things to do with messing around on the water.

The float flying ceased in the 1980’s when the Tiger was crashed. The remains of IVW are with the Robertsbridge Aviation Museum and will hopefully be rebuilt one day.Photograph Copyright © John Blake.

After the success of the Sea Tiger, the Club pilots obviously wanted to try their hands with other aircraft and Norman was persuaded to add floats to a Turbulent. RJZ was rebuilt in the 1990’s and is shown here at the PFA Rally in 1996, the aircraft is believed stored in Suffolk. Like the Sea Tiger, the Sea Turbulent seemed to work best using one speed for take-off, cruise and landing!

Photograph Copyright © Malcolm Clarke.


The other aircraft that was extensively used on floats was VPT the 150hp Super Cub. Floats were obtained from America and she was used over several seasons.

Photograph Copyright © Ron Smith.

Taking off

By the time VPT was put on floats most of the seaplane flying was taking place at Scotney Court near to Rye, Kent. This was an old gravel pit, as can be seen in the photographs.

Photograph Copyright © Ron Smith.

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